Colorado Avalanche got it right with Sean Walker

Colorado Avalanche v Los Angeles Kings
Colorado Avalanche v Los Angeles Kings / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

The sentiments around the NHL post-trade deadline are resoundingly positive for the job Chris MacFarland did to make the Colorado Avalanche better at the trade deadline. If they aren’t considered the outright “winners” by the pundits, the Avalanche are usually a top-three team in terms of using the deadline to bolster their roster and ready for a Stanley Cup run.

They hit on most areas of need including bottom-six depth, grit, a second-line center, and a defenseman. The only piece they did not address was the goaltending position, and this could be because of a variety of reasons, to include improved play of late.

Avalanche nation should be happy with the trades at the deadline, but they should be especially happy with the acquisition of Sean Walker, defenseman formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers, and here’s why.

Walker was likely acquired for many reasons, most notably his ability to provide a calming presence on the blue line. Once Bowen Byram got shipped out in the Casey Mittlestadt trade, the wheels began turning about who or if the Avs would try to replace him. Well, replace him they did and made an upgrade while doing so.

Walker was thriving in Philadelphia’s gritty, defensive, grinding type system and that’s exactly what the Avalanche need as they begin to march towards the playoffs. Their team defense has been a bit free-flowing this season, which has led to many quality chances for the opposing team each night. In turn, the overall save percentage for the team has been down this season, which has been a concern.

By adding Walker at the deadline, the team has been noticeably better as a whole on defense. The team on-ice save percentage (oiSV%) is 94.6 – significantly higher than what the Avalanche team save percentage has been all season.

Walker has been placed into defensive situations for Colorado more than two-thirds of the time. A look at his hockey reference page shows his defensive zone start percentage is at 68%, a massive increase from his 52.8% while with Philadelphia. Walker’s Corsi For and Fenwick numbers are both negative, meaning the opposing team has had more shots on net and controlled the puck more while he’s been on the ice. This makes sense coming from Philadelphia’s system.

With defensive metrics as high as they are, one would think Walker likely had poor statistics. Quite the contrary, as he has three points in four games so far with Colorado. He scored two goals most recently against Edmonton as well and had a chance for a hat trick in the third period. The scoring is a welcome addition to Colorado, but judging by his metrics, not what MacFarland brought him to Denver for.

Walker’s been steadily adding hits and blocking shots for the Avs. He’s a trusty veteran defenseman with an ability to thrive in a defensive, close checking game, suitable for the playoffs. He’s familiar with the penalty kill and with starting in disadvantageous situations. He’s thrived through four games with Colorado and Avalanche faithful hope this type of play continues to show through the playoffs.